Favourite books – style and wardrobe

A commenter asked me to bring together the books I’ve mentioned here and there.

I didn’t go through my posts to develop this list – wrote down the ones that I remembered and are easy to access on my shelves – the best test !

There are many other excellent books available. I just mention ones I’ve seen myself, and which stay in my mind and get referred to again rather than forgotten.
I have of course also seen many books which range from uninspiring through inadequate to terrible – but I’m not going to use space explaining why I don’t like them. And once I’ve found a book that satisfies my needs in that area, I tend to stop looking at more. So, sorry, you won’t be able to tell, if I don’t mention something, whether I think it’s bad, or I like something else better, or I simply haven’t seen it.

Even though this is only s small selection of what’s available, I’m a book person so this spread to great length.
This is about books on personal style and wardrobing.
Then couple of posts for books on pattern making and fit.
Final post with books about sewing.

Books I not only enjoyed reading a first time, but also look at again.
And of course I haven’t been able to resist making lengthy comments.

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Personal Style

There are many books on up-grading your style. They often have vertiginous heels on the cover and advise wearing black, so I keep well clear. I became less interested in style books once I got clearer about my own style – and was able to tell that most books aren’t relevant to me. . . So if you love your LBD and platform heels there are many style books you will enjoy, but I’m not the person to give advice :D

Style books always say they want to help you look your best. But they don’t all mean flattering your personal special features. They often mean trying to make you look more like a model. Or they assume you want to look rich and powerful. Those I try to avoid – I get upset about both their values and their advice.

In fact people disagree passionately about style books – perhaps because of their personal style, or because of how much they already know about what suits them and how to build good outfits. Always worth reading the low-star reviews at Amazon.

Most of the books I like have very out-of date illustrations, but the advice is still relevant. Most important – they cover a wide range of personal colourings, body shapes, and style preferences, not just fashion mag big city chic.

Nancy Nix-Rice Looking Good
A good short introduction on getting your best clothes (one chapter on sewing).

Mathis & Connor The Triumph of Individual Style
Beautiful, fascinating, detailed. Artists love every body shape.

Mary Spillane Color Me Beautiful’s Looking Your Best
The European off-shoot of Color Me Beautiful, with more colour types and personal styles. I prefer this to more recent books by UK CMB.

Judith Rasband Wardrobe Strategies for women
College textbook with assignments. Ignore the awful cover photo. Every page is bursting with good ideas. (Her company Conselle sells modernised versions of the chapters – very expensive.)

out-of-print
David Kibbe Metamorphosis
Rich with interesting comments on personal style. Though his specific suggestions show he’s not so good at helping people who like to dress quietly !

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Fashion Design

For some sewers, the ultimate expression of personal style is to design our own clothes.
If you’d like explore the design process, here are some possible starters.

Grandon et al 200 projects to get you into fashion design
A sequence of guided exercises. You may need other books for guidance on the techniques used, but working through this is like doing a fashion design foundation course.

Stephanie Corfee Fashion Design Workshop
Introductory fashion drawing advice.

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Wardrobe planning

Re-thinking your style, and need to know you have a basic wardrobe so you always have ‘something to wear’ ?

Juudith Rasband Wardrobe strategies for women
I mentioned this before, on personal style.

out-of-print :

Janet Wallach Working Wardrobe
The original wardrobe planning book and still interesting. She does assume you wear a skirt to work, but it’s easy to swap pants for skirts.

Kate Mathews Sewing a Travel Wardrobe
Minimal sewing instructions, but many ideas for travel capsules. Nothing on personal colouring or style. (Here’s my post on the plans in this book.)

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Fashion entertainment

Robert Pante Dressing to Win (oop)
Just one personal style – assumes you want to dress for the top. Prestige wardrobing, I enjoy this for a good laugh.

His One-Star Wardrobe (6-garment capsule plus accessories) cost about US$1900 when the book was published nearly 30 years ago (1984).
The UK Retail Price Index has gone up more than 2.5 times since then.
That means investing about $5000/ £3300 on a basic RTW designer starter capsule at today’s prices.
Looking at Net-a-Porter for current designer RTW prices, that is actually in the low price range for top designers.

From that Pante works up to a Five-Star Plan which includes furs, big diamonds, and red-carpet dresses (he doesn’t cost out that one :D).

In contrast, Imogen Lamport manages to come up with a RTW starter wardrobe of 12 items for aus$196, not including accessories. Yes impressive if you’re starting from a modest point. But people in the know will recognise the low quality fabrics and make. So work up from there if you want to impress :D

Making your own clothes could work out at a fraction of the designer RTW price (see my post comparing hobby sewing and designer RTW clothes prices). But do choose quality fabrics and accessories if you want to look like you buy from designers.
Say $700+ for materials for clothes (pant suit, blazer, 2 blouses, dress), and $1300 for accessories (2 pairs shoes, bag, belt).
Gets it down to about $2000 for your starter capsule.

For more amazed laughs about the real-life fashion business, I enjoy :

Bringing home the Birkin by Michael Tonello – on the world supported by luxury fashionistas.

Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones – fictional life of a designer.

The September Issue movie about the editor of US Vogue – on the making of a fashion magazine. (Do you want to be told what to wear by these people. . .)

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Happy hobby sewers – we can admire inspired design and technique without getting enmeshed in all the ‘keeping up’ with fashion.

Hope you know your own best styles, colours, shapes, and your sewing gives you what you love :D

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Links available May 2013

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Explore posts in the same categories: personal style, wardrobe planning

6 Comments on “Favourite books – style and wardrobe”

  1. Diya Says:

    Thanks for this post :)I love this statement – “Books I not only enjoyed reading a first time, but also look at again” … I find it applies to me as well. especially if the book is on sewing :D

  2. Martina Says:

    I have very similar favorite library of sewing and style books to the list you suggested in your post. So just got couple more from your suggestions to complete it. thank you :)

  3. Janice McDonnell Says:

    I’ve just discovered your site/blog and feel I have come home to my family. My loves are wardrobe planning & sewing. I’m a qualified colour analyst and it all comes together reading this site.


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